Hamilton County officials: County employees face furloughs amid budget deficit due to COVID-19

HamCo looking at $40M-$60M budget deficit
Posted at 2:21 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 22:18:41-04

CINCINNATI — Facing millions of dollars in lost revenue because of the coronavirus crisis, Hamilton County leaders said they’ll notify some county employees of furloughs starting Monday.

And more furlough notifications will come over the next few weeks.

It’s not clear how many people are being furloughed in total, because officials said county departments are making individual decisions to find the best fit to reduce budgets by 20%.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

She spoke directly to workers Monday during a virtual press conference.

“I regret that you have to go through this again,” Driehaus said. “We are fighting to minimize the impact of these cuts on you. And we would not be taking these steps if it were not necessary as a last resort.”

Hamilton County is looking at a $40 million to $60 million budget deficit. The county relies on sales tax revenue, and officials say it could see 70% of that revenue gone in the next few months. The county has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars in casino fees lost as well.

“This crisis is stretching us in all sorts of different directions,” said Hamilton County Administrator Jeff Alluto.

Alluto said that even though some furloughs are necessary, they don’t know yet exactly how many employees this will affect.

He said since each department functions differently, they’re deciding best how to reach a 20% reduction in individual budgets, so some departments may not need to furlough employees at all, while others most certainly will.

The goal is also to make sure that the departments continue to operate successfully for the people of Hamilton County.

“We don’t want to see departments do things that are in the long run devastating to the operations of the department and to the service of the public if we can do something that is more temporary in nature,” Alluto said.

The other measures the county is taking to deal with the budget deficit are eliminating all new programs, cutting capital projects on county buildings and tapping the county’s reserve fund.

“Will it be enough? At this point in time I can’t answer that question,” Alluto said.

Looking to getting out on the other side of this, Alluto said that will happen when people start to feel safe to shop in the community and go to restaurants again – and that’s all dependent on overall health recovery and the recovery of the economy.

Driehuas assured people in Hamilton County that they will get to that other side.

“We are going to get through this,” Driehaus said. “This is a temporary dip.”